By RAELYNN RICARTE
News staff writer
Four sets of candidates for local elected offices aired vastly different viewpoints at Tuesday’s public forum that was sponsored by the Hood River County Chamber of Commerce.
Marva Janik and John Randall, both vying for Position 4 on the Cascade Locks Port Commission, arrived at Waucoma Center with opposite stands on a tribal gambling casino.
“While I don’t support gambling for gambling itself, I wholeheartedly support this casino being in Cascade Locks and the economic opportunities it will bring,” said Janik.
“I believe the casino proposed for Cascade Locks is not a good idea; it brings in too many variables. The long-term problems will far outweigh the benefits,” said Randall.
Polarized opinions were expressed over the cause of “gridlock” in Hood River waterfront planning by Brian Carlstrom, representing candidate Dr. Lars Bergstrom, and incumbent Fred Duckwall. Both men are seeking the Position 1 seat on the Hood River Port Commission and addressed the merits of Measure 14-16, a failed 2003 citizen initiative to preserve all of the land north of Portway Avenue for a public park. The measure was ruled illegal by the state Land Use Board of Appeals because it circumvented the existing laws for rezoning property.
“Not one person Lars has talked with (on campaign trail) was happy about how the port is wasting money on legal fees and consultants to act against the will of the city and the people,” said Carlstrom.
“The citizen initiative created the gridlock. Work had to stop on waterfront planning until we could get a legal determination to avoid a lawsuit from either side,” said Duckwall.
The debate over how much consideration should be given to the measure continued between Cory Roeseler and incumbent Don Hosford. The two individuals are competing for the Position 2 seat on the Hood River port board.
“The voters have made their clear preference for land use known and our port has failed to represent its constituents,” said Roeseler.
“The illegal initiative created gridlock, cost the city about $4,000, and was only voted on by 11 percent of the port’s constituents,” said Hosford.
However, in spite of vastly contrasting opinions between contenders, only candidate Craig Marquardo attacked his opponent’s credentials. He claimed that Kathy Watson, who now occupies Position 3 on the Hood River port board, had condoned the “destruction of valuable forest land” through her environmental consulting work with Mt. Hood Meadows. He also questioned why she and her husband, Stuart, had recently opened a restaurant in Bingen and “not in the town she is responsible for economic growth in.”
“I think this election is about character. I think it is about integrity,” Marquardo said. “I think it is about honesty. If you were not going to vote for me because you weren’t sure of what I have or haven’t done in the past — you should certainly now vote for me because of what we know my opponent has done in the present. If it comes down to the devil you know and the devil you don’t, I can assure you that the devil you know cares very little about what you think,” said Marquardo.
Watson did not take the gauntlet thrown down by Marquardo, in spite of recent publicity about his controversial past. Instead she quipped, “Then I must be the devil with the blue dress on,” and proceeded to outline how her experience in the communications field benefited the port.
“I have always worked to be a connector and not a divider. I think there are a lot of goodhearted people in this community and I can work with anyone,” she said.
Janik felt the casino proposed by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs would bring in revenue needed to upgrade public safety facilities, such as the fire station, and educational programs. She also felt the tourist attraction would draw in other businesses to help the city overcome its current economic woes.
Randall said Cascade Locks had always been a “bedroom community” with a large percentage of the work force commuting for employment. He did not believe the town was “going to die or wither on the vine” without the casino — which would bring more crime and addiction problems.
Both candidates earned praise from Roeseler, who said, “With the casino coming in and all of the controversy, I admire both of you for having the guts to stand there and talk about the issue.”
Carlstrom, speaking for Bergstrom, raised an unusual suggestion during the April 26 forum. He said that the bridge toll should only be charged for those traveling southbound, to eliminate traffic backups on the Oregon side of Highway 35. He said a one-way $1.50 fee would allow the port to retain its revenue stream and lower the accident potential at on and off ramps to Interstate 84.
Duckwall said the Oregon State Department of Transportation was already working on a plan to address the traffic congestion along the state highway. He did not comment on Carlstrom’s recommendation for the bridge toll.
Both Carlstrom and Roeseler agreed that all of the land north of Portway should be deeded over the city for a public park.
Duckwall and Hosford countered that the port had already dedicated half of its waterfront holdings for recreation and needed to also focus on economic development.
Marquardo accused the current port board of being in “direct opposition” to public opinion on almost every major waterfront development decision.
Watson said the working relationship between port, city and and citizens had dramatically improved in the past few months — and was getting better every day.